SHERIDAN — In the best of artistic performances, the audience participates, the newest addition to the Sheridan artistic community believes.
“An important part of the arts is not just that the audience receives, but that the audience does,” said Ryan Landis, Whitney Center for the Arts Concert Hall and Performing Arts coordinator. “My job is to be involved in the development of those kinds of opportunities.”
Landis, who began this summer, has hit the ground running, said Wendy Smith, assistant vice president for strategic communication and public relations at Northern Wyoming Community College District.
“He is fantastic,” Smith said.
Landis grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, and spent about 10 years of work in nonprofits in Southeast Asia, where he completed a music degree in Malaysia. When he returned to the United States, he received two graduate degrees in music, including a doctoral degree from the University of Alabama. He was then hired by Mississippi State University to be a voice and opera professor.
“I taught there for five years, and while I was there, I had the opportunity to manage the university symphony,” Landis said. “For two years, I served as the operations manager for that ensemble. I grew to really enjoy the arts administration, and so I began to look for opportunities to work in that field.”
He noticed the NWCCD was looking for a coordinator for the Whitney Center at Sheridan College, and while he knew very little about the area, it was close to family connections.
“I was interested, and then when I got here, I found a city that has a thriving arts community,” Landis said. “That excited me.”
In his position at the Whitney Center, Landis will play a large part in scheduling the 2020-2021 performance lineup. In early August, the Whitney Center for the Arts released its 2019-2020 schedule, which will bring award-winning artists and musicians to Sheridan and the surrounding communities.
Landis hopes to continue that forward-thinking momentum into the 2020-2021 season.
“Our 2020-2021 season will be wide in variety, and will provide unique opportunities for the community to experience music and arts in a way that is moving and meaningful,” Landis said.
Landis will oversee the events that happen within the concert hall, which will involve booking the 2020-2021 season, choosing artists for the upcoming season. His job will also include developing projects to engage the community in educational and outreach opportunities, Landis said.
“We want to get community members involved in dances and in the actual performances on the day of the performance — that is what excites me, how we can engage people in the performances and not just perform for them,” Landis said. “Because we are an educational institution, I think it is important that there is that outreach occurring into the community.”
As booking for the 2020-2021 season begins, Landis said he will draw upon already-established relationships and the reputation of the Whitney Center to find visiting artists.
“The vitality of the arts in the community (draws performers),” Landis said. “I think beyond that, the relationships we’ve developed with the artists … means we’ve continued to explore how we can bring in artists and ensembles that expand horizons and opportunities for the audience.”
The visual and performing arts communities in Sheridan are clearly thriving, Landis said.
“With a community that is this supportive — that’s a good indicator of a healthy arts climate,” he said. “That was what excited me about applying for the job, and about coming into a community that has a growing arts climate.”
Landis said that for him, the most magical moments in the arts are when the audience is engaged in the performance, rather than a performance being a one-way transaction.
“The arts … allow us a means to express our humanity,” he said. “It allows us to engage in dialogue on subjects that can be sensitive, in productive ways that might bring people together. There is something that is unique in the ability, whether it be visual or dance or music or fine art that speaks to us on a deep level as humans.”